July 4, 2010
I often find myself, in conversation, bemoaning the portion of Detroit’s storied history in which I was born and raised. Born almost twenty years too late to witness Motown first hand, even the MC5 and the Stooges were long gone before my time, having disbanded seven and five years before my birthday, respectively.
Sports were a joke, after 1984, for what seemed like ever. Even when Detroit sports teams go all the way, it’s a sporadic great season from the Pistons (basketball moves too fast for me), or the Red Wings (when I first moved to New York, my first boss there called hockey a “white boy” sport). The Tigers have largely been a laughing stock for almost thirty years (setting the record for most losses in a single season by an American League team in 2003), the Lions have not won a championship (and only a handful of games, it seems) since 1957. Don Was, who was born and raised in Detroit, made his mark as a musician with Was (Not Was) in New York, and as a producer (Bonnie Raitt, Barenaked Ladies, Rolling Stones) in L.A. Sadly, by the time the White Stripes, Dirtbombs and their ilk had made the term “garage rock” a household name, I had gone west to college.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in this column that the Insane Clown Posse-the self-described (and aptly so) most hated band in the world, were the first group to make me feel like it was cool to be from Detroit. These guys had a national following, and yet they consistently did things to make Detroit feel special. At least one single a year (and the entire first Forgotten Freshness CD) was exclusively available in Detroit. Every Halloween was spent in the Motor City, with what they called the Hallowicked show. Gwar opened the Hallowicked show I saw, and it was, hands down, one of the most fun shows I’ve ever attended. I feel bad, admitting even I can’t stomach ICP records anymore, after spilling so much love on them for their Detroit-centric attitude in the 1990s.
A somewhat less embarrassing scene, though, made some of us proud to be from Detroit around the same time. Though not by any means rooted in Motown, any touring band in ska‘s third wave would have to admit that Detroit was a crucial stop for any band with horns, up tempo punk songs, and an emphasis on the off beat.
April 26, 2010
Welcome to another edition of Brook Pridemore’s The Nineties-ist. This edition discusses Great Splits in History. For earlier installments, go here.
As things started to crumble in the executive echelons of corporate rock, the (smart) little guys started to think of other ways to get new folks into their music. With your continued interest, I’d like to spend the next few weeks talking about innovative ways in which rock musicians have thrived in the decidedly lower-stakes climate of the last twenty years.
First, the split release. Kind of like rock star “team ups,” e.g. Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure,” etc., though not nearly as crassly commercial (and usually just plain better, as I can think of few other “team ups” in history that have stood the test of time), split releases typically combine bands from two different regional scenes, who share a similar sound or aesthetic. Also, typically, the release is available in a limited quantity, which (ideally) causes great fervor around the record, driving it quickly out of print, and into legend. Here are four splits that sound great and worked really, really well.
The Rudiments/Jack Kevorkian and the Suicide Machines | Skank for Brains (Self-Released)
If you’re into ska, there’s no better place and time to have come of age than Detroit in the mid-90′s. According to some, the national ska scene grew from a dozen or so groups at the dawn of the 90′s to about five hundred by the time the scene hit critical mass in ’97 or ’98. Though most early-90′s ska bands featured the horn sections typical of the 2nd Wave or 2-Tone ska of the early 80′s, by the middle of the decade, just as many bands were doing ska without the horns, dubbing the new microgenre “Punk Ska.”
Whether these bands were eschewing the horn element out of fiscal necessity (I think most ska bands fell apart because it’s so hard to keep eight or more musicians on the road and fed) or an interest in standing out from the crowd (think of how the Minutemen approached punk, if they were rude boys), I never heard anyone on the scene griping that Punk Ska wasn’t legit.
Skank for Brains celebrated Punk Ska with a short album’s worth of songs each by Toledo’s Rudiments and Detroit’s Jack Kevorkian and the Suicide Machines. The Rudiments were a three piece group that barely seemed to be able to keep it together: this release alone features multiple lineup changes, and the front half of the disc never quite excites.